It is amazing what a winning season can do.
After years of essentially being ignored by virtually everyone that was not a Royals fan, the Kansas City Royals have suddenly become interesting. The Royals are considered to be a potential playoff team, and even find themselves garnering national attention. Even that self proclaimed sports media king, ESPN, has actually paid some attention to the Royals lately.
In David Schoenfield’s list of ten potential breakout candidates, he listed Yordano Ventura as one of the five pitchers he expects to take the next step this season. Ventura has been a hot name, ranking high upon not only the Royals top prospects, but as one of the top prospects in baseball. It is certainly easy to see why, with his fastball that routinely hit 100 MPH last season and his production in the minor leagues last season, putting together a 3.14 ERA while striking out 155 batters in 132.2 innings. Even with all those strikeouts, Ventura had a strikeout to walk rate of 2.92.
As Schoenfield pointed, out, the Royals had enough trust in Ventura to give him three starts while they were still in contention for the Wild Card last season. Obviously, they appear to be as high on Ventura as the rest of baseball seems to be. Yet, should Ventura truly be considered a breakout candidate at this point?
The biggest issue with that is how the Royals plan on handling Yordano Ventura this season. The fifth starter spot is likely to be between the generally underwhelming Wade Davis and the potentially resurgent Luke Hochevar. With the ability to keep Ventura in the minors long enough to delay his arbitration clock, chances are that both Hochevar and Davis would need to implode during Spring Training in order for Ventura to begin the season in the majors.
Ventura is also thought to need to work on his secondary pitches.. While his fastball is electric, Ventura’s curveball and changeup still considered to need work. It may be better for him to work on both pitches in Omaha, instead of trying to refine two pitches in the majors while pitching well enough to help the Royals contend for the playoffs this season.
Yordano Ventura may well be a breakout candidate if he starts the season in the rotation, but that is unlikely to happen. Now, if Schoenfield was talking about breakout players for the second half of the season, he could be on to something.